Last weekend I visited Chicago, and found myself missing my
bicycle. Trudging from place to place on foot cramped my style and hindered me
from getting my bearings as quickly as I could by bike. I longed to sail
through Millennium Park, to lock up at the field museum and explore a different
district all on two wheels. Unfortunately, the Megabus
wouldn't allow me to stow my bike as my 50 pound piece of luggage. Plus, what would I wear?
Once we found our hotel and set out to explore the expansive
downtown lakefront, I noticed that the kind of bicycle infrastructure I'm used
to at home is largely absent. With hardly any bike lanes or trails, it's
difficult at best for the few cyclists out and about on the
Perhaps there's less need for such bicycle infrastructure in the city, given its enviable public transportation system.
But I couldn't help but feel that citizens of Chicago are missing out on what
this tourist had grown accustomed to in her hometown.
I did see a few brave souls weaving through the heavy Chicago
traffi. Plus sidewalks speckled with bike racks. And I also noticed the clever monetization
of bicycles for tourists. A company called Divvy offers corrals of bicycles
every few blocks. The bikes seemed well maintained and the payment interface
easy to navigate. Purchase one 24-hour pass and receive unlimited 30-minute
rides. Go over the 30 minute limit and your credit card is automatically
charged an extra fee.
Users of the bike share program can zip through the city
quickly, but not necessarily easily. The lack of bike lanes forces many out-of-towners
onto the sidewalk, mixing dangerously with the heavily trafficked pedestrian
areas. Also, the corral does not provide helmetsm making it an at-your-own-risk
situation if you should decide to compete with the busy auto traffic. In all, I
appreciated the idea behind the bike share option, but without an appropriate
space for users, it seemed just a little off to me.
Visitors to Indianapolis can look forward to a bike share
program set to launch early next summer. You can read
more about it at NUVO's sister site Indiana Living Green. But basically, the
program will work much the same as the one in Chicago, with the added bonus of
a workable infrastructure already in place and easy to navigate.
On returning home, the first thing I did was take a tour of
my own city by bike - thankful to live in a town that places importance on the safety
of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Because I've been using it for the past
year and half, I never really stopped to consider the magnificence of the
Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the city's bike lanes - and our ability as
cyclists to actually travel (and travel safely) from place to place.
If you haven't seen it yet, I really recommend taking a look
at this Street Films short, which features the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. My
eyes well-up with pride every time I watch it. It's a good reminder of what
makes bike culture in Indianapolis, in our city, so special.